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First NBA player with MS takes the court

By Caitlin Hagan, CNN
updated 10:55 AM EDT, Tue March 26, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Chris Wright becomes the first NBA player with multiple sclerosis
  • He was signed to a 10-day contract with the Dallas Mavericks
  • Despite his disease, "It's all been a blessing," Wright says

Editor's note: In The Human Factor, we profile survivors who have overcome the odds. Confronting a life obstacle -- injury, illness or other hardship -- they tapped their inner strength and found resilience they didn't know they possessed. This week we introduce you to former Dallas Mavericks point guard Chris Wright, who talks about his multiple sclerosis diagnosis.

(CNN) -- Chris Wright was playing professional basketball in Turkey last year, working toward achieving his lifelong dream of playing in the NBA, when something strange happened at the end of practice.

"I'm running sprints, just normal sprints, and I run and touch the baseline, go back and my foot gives out," said Wright, now 23.

"I just thought I slipped or something like that. But I noticed my foot started getting numb and it just got progressively worse."

By the time Wright showed up to practice the next morning, he had lost feeling in his right leg. Before practice was over, the numbness had spread to the entire right side of his body. But doctors initially said nothing was wrong and told him to take it easy.

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"They told me just to rest for a day and see how it felt in the morning," he remembered.

"When I went back ... it had gotten worse. It was harder for me to walk, it had spread to my left foot and it just became, basically taking over my body -- it was crazy."

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Eventually Wright found a specialist and was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a debilitating disease that involves the immune system attacking the central nervous system. He had never heard of it before.

"A few of my teammates knew exactly what it was, but I wasn't aware," he said.

Fortunately, Wright was in peak physical condition at the time of his diagnosis, something he credits for how well he's doing today.

"Good physical condition, eating right, getting the proper rest, that all plays a major role," he explained. "Obviously you have to change a few things, you can't be going out all the time. ... But definitely my conditioning and being an athlete has definitely, definitely played a major role."

Not only did Wright return to the court less than three months after being diagnosed, he made history two weeks ago when he signed a 10-day contract with the Dallas Mavericks. With the stroke of a pen, Wright became the first person with MS to play in the NBA. The Mavericks did not re-sign Wright when the 10-day contract expired.

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Meanwhile, he said, "I'm doing pretty well. I have to do an IV injection once every month, that takes about a two-hour process," he said.

Still, he said, "it's all been a blessing."

Asked what he would tell other patients with MS, Wright didn't hesitate:

"Don't be afraid to step out and do what you want to do," he said.

"Don't believe it's a crippling disease that will just handle you the rest of your life. Yeah, there may be limitations, but you can still live your life. And I just wear that sign on my chest proudly, and you know, I'm a part of the MS society."

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